I choose to walk the Tongariro Crossing as it looked and sounded amazing, and I knew it would be a challenge as I hadn’t previously had any ‘hiking’ experience. Before I set out I did not imagine that I would also climb Mount Ngauruhoe but the first half of our walk had gone well and we had plenty of time to attempt it.
The Tongariro Crossing is 20km in length and takes approximately 6 – 8 hours to complete. If you want to climb Mount Ngauruhoe then allow another 2 – 3 hours. At the time we did the crossing the second half of the track was shut due to volcanic activity, and we could only walk to the Emerald lakes before we had to turn back. As the Emerald lakes is the mid-way point in the hike it is still the same distance as it was before.
We got a shuttle bus from the centre of Taupo at 6am with Adventure HQ and arrived at the start of the crossing at 7:30am. The crossing was extremely busy and yes, it is a little bit daunting walking with so many other people because the pace is set, so you don’t want to slow down too much and see everyone walk past you, leaving you feeling very unfit and rather disappointed in yourself! Plus, as Ben is a lot fitter than me he tends to gives me motivational pep talks (in reality he shouts at me to move my ass, and I can’t let him beat me because I’d never hear the end of it).
There is no doubt about it, the Tongariro Crossing is challenging if you haven’t done any long distance walking before, but to be honest it wasn’t as tough as I was expecting. I just kept pushing myself along and telling myself that I was going to make it and that it would be a great achievement when I’d finished it. I finished the walk, and climbed Mount Ngauruhoe in a total of 9 hours.
We climbed Mount Ngauruhoe on our way to the Emerald lakes rather than on the way back as we were warned by our shuttle driver that if we decided to do it on the way back we’d never actually do it because we’d be too tired. We climbed using the route along the rocky outcrop to the left of the volcano. I took it slowly up the volcano, stopping to catch my breath, and Ben would snap photos of me lagging behind whilst he powered up to the top.
The mist floated in when we were half way up which was a little disappointing, however it really felt like we were on the top of the world looking over all the clouds beneath us.
I felt like giving up about 25 metres from the top (and I may have shed a frustrated tear) as it was pure volcanic rock and shale, and every step I took forward it felt as though I slid two steps back – it was extremely tiring. As I was having a little paddy, Ben shouted ‘come on… its easy’ – this actually gave me the push I needed to get to the summit – to slap him in the face. It wasn’t easy, but yes it certainly was worth the effort to get to the summit and I wouldn’t have forgiven myself if I had given up. I felt so proud of myself when I finally reached the top.
After catching our breath we set off down Ngauruhoe. We walked straight down the right hand side of the rocky outcrop and it was volcanic rock all the way down. This is the quickest way down – just lean back and dig your heels in and slide down with the rocks, don’t be scared of falling as if you follow these tips you shouldn’t. It took us 2 ½ hours to walk up and about 30 minutes to ‘slide’ our way down.
We then walked onwards to the Emerald lakes.
We spent only about 15 minutes admiring the lakes before we had to turn back to catch our shuttle back to Taupo at 4:30pm. The walk back just seemed to go on and on…and on, and I was starting to get blisters, I couldn’t wait to get back to the shuttle and sit down!
We managed to make it back to our shuttle on time and I must admit I did feel very proud of myself on the drive back. Maybe I’ll have more faith in myself in the future and may attempt a similar hike again in the future.
So if you’re considering the Tongariro Crossing but haven’t done anything like it before I’d seriously encourage you to GO FOR IT! Just take lots of enthusiasm and determination.
- Take lots of water (at least 2L each)
- Take chocolate. I’d recommend scroggin – you’ll find it in most New Zealand supermarkets. It’s a mixture of nuts, berries, and chocolate – and so delicious and full of energy.
- Take some fruit
- Take sandwiches (although I just ate chocolate and fruit!)
- Wear layers – one minute you’ll be hot, and the next they’ll be a strong wind and you’ll get cold
- If there is a chance of rain come prepared and bring waterproofs
- Come with a fully charged camera – the scenery is AMAZING.